The Problem With Tasters

We’ve never been keen on asking for tasters, mostly because of we have a powerful aversion to making nuisances of ourselves, though we do understand all the arguments in favour of the practice. On our recent trip to London, however, we saw a kind of worst-case scenario played out, which only increased our antipathy.

A solo barman on a quiet afternoon was approached by a party of five, all of who wanted to taste everything before making a choice. Way more than a pint of (expensive) beer was given away while a queue of thirsty punters grew and grew, getting more impatient with every further request the party of tasters made: “Can you tell us which hops are the Kernel again? And what was that first one? Kelly, you should taste that first one Dave and I tried before you choose.”

We can’t see any way the barman could have wriggled out of this situation. Saying “Right, you’ve had enough tastes, now just choose!” would have seemed rude. He might, perhaps, have suggested serving a couple of other customers while they decided, but then what if we’d started asking to taste everything, too? The traditional publican’s response would be a passive-aggressive sign: “POLITE NOTICE: it would be appreciated if customers could refrain from asking for excessive numbers of tasters at busy times”.

Tasters work well when customers are suitably cooperative and community-minded — that is, when they have a couple of tasters rather than ten; and when they pay attention to how busy the bar is — but then that’s true of lots of aspects of pub culture.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe we should have made this is a You’re the Landlord scenario? How would you have handled it if you were behind the bar?